Thirty years ago, I first dipped my toes into alternative music thanks to the new-found wonders of MTV’s 120 Minutes, found Front 242 and Faith No More, and it literally changed my life. But as a not-even-teenager at this stage, my only outlet to discuss music were my slightly older stepbrothers (it took a long time before my musical paths recrossed with my dad!) – but as we progressed through school, I began to find other like-minded people to swap tapes with, and eventually go to gigs and clubs with.
This was, of course, the beginning of a “scene”, not that I knew it at the time. A group of likeminded people who socialise, listen to similar music, perhaps dress in similar styles…in other words, it becomes a lifestyle, a way to identify one’s self and a support network. A bit later on, though, as I began clubbing (twenty-five years ago this year!) – and critically went to University in London a year later – I discovered much bigger, more evolved scenes were to be found. They often had built up around various clubs or bars, but spread far further than that, although it took some time before I really became part of any of it and I’ve made lifelong friends as a result.
I even began to study some of this – around the concept of Urban Tribes – as I started looking at my dissertation in Human Geography, which coalesced into a well-received plan for researching why Camden Town became such a focal point for the Alternative scene, something, of course, that since has been on the wane.
I never completed that degree or that dissertation, but I’ve retained a keen interest in the concepts around this, as the whole thing is fascinating. Particularly having, in the past couple of decades, DJed in different parts of the country. It’s obvious as a DJ that different cities have almost unique scenes. A song that works in your “home” club may be unknown in a city 100 miles away, and vice versa. People may dress differently, the attitude may be different. But fundamentally, the musical influences broadly started in the same place, but just evolved in very different ways.
And while the Goth scene – or at least the origins of it – have been well documented by the likes of Mick Mercer, I’m not really sure that there’s been much about the corresponded Industrial scene in the UK, at least beyond some of the bands themselves. The origins within the murky worlds of Throbbing Gristle and the various related bands in their orbits, sure, you can read a few books on that, and one great book about Cabaret Voltaire (Industrial Evolution: through the eighties with Cabaret Voltaire by Mick Fish) gives a fantastic insight into the scene of the time in Sheffield…but what else is there?
Hence why I’m writing this. My aim is, over the next year or so, to start documenting the different scenes that evolved across the country, with the help of people that were there. Some were promoters, some were DJs, some were simply people who turned up, danced and had fun. Lives were changed out of these places, relationships begun and ended. New favourite bands, new dramas, new laughs were found and endured.
Some of it will also be my recollections and involvements, but I don’t want it to be just from my perspective. I want to give space to the voices that experienced and helped shape things and tell the story from all angles. Where needed we’ll protect names, as I’m sure that might need to happen, at other points stories suppressed at the time might need to be told.
But in the main I want this to be a positive experience. The power of a genre of music has genuinely changed many of us, and I want to celebrate what it meant and what it still means to us, even if most of us can’t quite agree on what it is. And this will be a story told about the scene, not just the bands.
I first asked about this back at the end of October on my Facebook page, and that gave me lots of food for thought, and lines of enquiry as I begin to prepare the first posts. But, I’m never going to say no to more info, and if you want to submit anything to be included in this series…E-mail me (You know what to do with that to make it work, right?), comment/message on Facebook at the amodelofcontrol.com page, and over on Twitter (@amodelofcontrol).
Look out for future posts on this across 2020, as I begin to tell the tale of the industrial scene in the UK.